British & Irish Lion Charlie Hodgson wants newly-crowned Guinness Premiership champions Sale Sharks to become a major European force after they joined the heavyweights of English rugby with their stunning title success.
Sale’s ruthless Twickenham demolition job on Leicester left the Tigers in ruins, contemplating a fourth successive season without silverware.
Leicester had been on the trail of a record seventh league crown, but Sharks simply devoured their prey as the once unfashionable north-west club romped home 45-20.
They also made Premiership history by ending a three-season sequence of clubs finishing top after 22 games but not lifting the title.
Gloucester, Bath and Leicester were all undone in successive campaigns by play-off masters Wasps, yet Sale’s vice-like grip on the league this term never looked like being loosened.
"It has been a long journey with highs and lows, and this is a great achievement for us," said England star Hodgson, who gave a fly-half masterclass in miserable conditions as he kicked 23 points and tortured Leicester with his tactical prowess.
"We would like to follow in the footsteps of Wasps and Leicester with the success they’ve had in the last few years, but it is early days.
"We want to progress as a club and be a dominant force in Europe, and this is the first step in that direction.
"The test will come next season, and whether we can continue in the same vein."
There were Sale heroes all over the pitch, from skipper Jason Robinson – the first player to win Grand Finals in rugby league and union – to substitute Chris Mayor, whose late breakaway score came amid chants of "easy, easy" from ecstatic Sharks supporters.
"I think justice has been done," said Sharks’ French rugby director Philippe Saint-Andre. "We deserve this title.
"We’ve improved a lot in two years, and this is fantastic for the club and the players. For a young squad to have the winning habit is great – it will give us confidence.
"Manchester is not just a football city now – it also has a rugby club. Our plan was to be champions in three years (after he joined), but we are champions in two."
Sale are only the fifth club in 19 years of English league rugby to take top domestic honours, following previous champions Leicester, Bath, Wasps and Newcastle.
And Lions full-back Robinson was quick to salute the contributions of Saint-Andre and Sale owner Brian Kennedy as pivotal figures in Sharks’ stirring success story.
"Philippe is a winner who wants winners around him," said Robinson. "He expects a lot, and we produced a great performance, considering the conditions.
"And Brian is the man who has put his hand into his pocket – a deep pocket – and put a lot into the club. He had the vision for this club."